“And they three passed over the white sands, between the rocks, silent as the shadow.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Driving south through the arid plateau region of New Mexico on unbusy Highway 54 and 70 to Las Cruces today on our road trip, our daily schedule allotted an hour or so in early afternoon to walk around White Sands National Park. My first impression of this vast sea of sand whiteness from afar convinced me that one wouldn’t want to lose their way around here. Upon learning that the White Sands Missile Range was situated very near to the park further confirmed such foreboding suspicions. For such safety reasons , I understand then why the federal government actually closes the park for public visits on days when missile testing takes place. It seemed shocking to me as well that that the U.S. chose to conduct atomic bomb testing during World War II in close proximity to this special place.
So with safety planted in our minds today, we definitely would adhere to any well defined paths as we dragged our feet in deep sand along the Dune Life Nature Trail. Yet several dunes encountered here seemed to invite directional confusion. So it made sense that I could relieve my anxiety when needed by choosing to plop down on the ground and simply feel the fine grain sand on my body as I scanned for photographs opportunities over this mystical ocean of shifting sands.
The next day, we drove west on I-10 nearby the U.S./Mexican border headed for our upcoming, two night stay in the Phoenix, Arizona region. On the way there, we elected to detour to through the eastern portion of Saguaro National Park in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson. After obtaining maps and walking advice at the visitor center in early afternoon, we then opted to hike for a short while along the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail, hoping to find heavy concentrations of Saguaro cactus plants in the distance to photograph. A distinct feeling of awe for these hardy specimens definitely set in for me then in realizing they can grow up to 70 feet high and survive in this harsh climate for up to one hundred years. Stopping along the trail periodically to take some close up “shots” of these desert environs, I observed the stunning beauty of other species of prickly cacti there. If you ever have more time than we did to visit Saguaro in the future, I recommend you drive the eight mile, Cactus Forest Loop Drive for a more thorough look at this magnificent desert ecology.
So many visitors seem to find White Sands or Saguaro National Park as a thrill seeking adventure. After all, what a challenge it would be to arduously climb the highest sand hill or walk energetically along a long cacti trail? Yet there seems to be a deeper spiritual purpose in being there if one chooses to reflect in stillness about these unique natural paradises formed so beautifully over eons of time. Which option would you choose?